Tag Archives: Russia

Little ‘white lies’ leads to loss of Hope

Donald Trump treats his White House Communications Director Hope Hicks like a daughter (he affectionately calls her “Hopey”). There is no one Trump trusts more.  Hicks is his longest-serving aid whom he brought with him from his company. Pundits commenting on Hicks’ loyalty to Trump joked that she would be there to “turn the lights out when the Trump administration ends.”

Earlier this week, “White House communications director Hope Hicks refused to answer questions about the Trump administration that House investigators posed Tuesday as part of their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.” In Russia probe, Hope Hicks refuses to answer questions about Trump administration:

But under pressure from lawmakers, she began to offer some details about the transition period Tuesday afternoon, according to House Intelligence Committee members of both parties, who said Hicks and her attorneys agreed to address topics broached with the Senate Intelligence Committee in an earlier private interview.

Democrats and Republicans emerging from the House Intelligence Committee’s interview with Hicks on Tuesday noted that, at first, she categorically resisted answering any questions about events and conversations that had occurred since President Trump won the election, even though Trump has not formally invoked executive privilege with the panel.

“No one’s asserting privilege; they’re following the orders of the White House not to answer certain questions,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a committee member, after the interview had been going for about four hours.

“There’s no hope to get all our answers,” he added, noting the pun and adding: “Tip your servers.”

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‘The Kush’ has to go – drain the swamp of corruption (Updated)

The “Secretary of Everything” in the Trump administration, son-in-law Jared Kushner, is having a really bad week.

Jared had his security clearance pulled by Chief of Staff General John Kelly because he has not been able to pass a FBI background check after more than a year, because Jared has not been forthcoming about his foreign contacts and business dealings on his SF-86 form. For anyone else, that gets you terminated and/or prosecuted for lying on the SF-86 form.

“Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.” Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage.

We previously learned that Jared was negotiating financing for his business interests during the transition. Mueller Eyes Kushner’s Pursuit of Foreign Financing:

During the transition period, Kushner (reportedly) met with the chairman of the Chinese firm Anbang Insurance, in hopes of securing a $400 million investment in his family’s flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile, his company also (reportedly) sought $500 million in capital from the former prime minister of Qatar for the same project.

And let’s not forget that Jared asked the Russian ambassador for a “back channel” to Moscow to avoid detection by the U.S. intelligence agencies during the transition. Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin.

‘The Kush’ is a whole bucket full of red flags of national security risks. He should have been gone a long time ago.

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U.S. elections are vulnerable to cyber attack in 2018

The 2018 mid-term elections are vulnerable to attack from what the Russians may have learned from their probing cyber attacks on state election systems during the 2016 election.

NBC News reports, U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election/span>:

The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

Three senior intelligence officials told NBC News that the intelligence community believed the states as of January 2017 were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases.

While officials in Washington informed several of those states in the run-up to the election that foreign entities were probing their systems, none were told the Russian government was behind it, state officials told NBC News.

All state and federal officials who spoke to NBC News agree that no votes were changed and no voters were taken off the rolls.

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Head of U.S. Cyber Command suggests Trump is failing to defend U.S. against Russian cyber warfare

Remember the right-wing conspiracy theory that there was a stand down order in Benghazi! That FOX News myth has been entirely discredited despite Hollywood fiction like 13 Hours.

But it is now increasingly fair to ask whether there is at least an implied “stand down order” from the Trump White House to the intelligence agencies to not take more aggressive actions to thwart Russia’s ongoing cyber warfare against the U.S. and to protect our elections.

Last week at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Cia Director Mike Pompeo, and National Security Director Admiral Mike Rogers on whether they had received specific direction from President Trump to blunt future Russian interference efforts. The officials indicated they had not received a specific direction of the sort from the president. Live coverage: FBI director testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee.

This despite the fact that all the intelligence agency heads reconfirmed that they believe the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s assessment that there has been no decrease in Russian interference since.

“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle here,” Pompeo told Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that Russia views its influence efforts against the 2016 election as successful, and warned that the 2018 midterms could become a target for Moscow.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceived its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats said.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo asserted that the intelligence community is engaged in a “significant effort” to counter Russian and other foreign influence operations against the United States.

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Democratic Memo rebutting Nunes Memo released, Trump suggests his AG investigate his political opponents in retaliation

The House Intelligence Committee released a heavily redacted Democratic memorandum (.pdf) on Saturday rebutting Republican claims that top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials had abused their powers in spying on a former Trump campaign aide.

The New York Times reports, 2 Weeks After Trump Blocked It, Democrats’ Rebuttal of G.O.P. Memo Is Released (paragraphs reordered for greater clarity):

The Democratic memo amounted to a forceful rebuttal to the president’s portrayal of the Russia inquiry as a “witch hunt” being perpetrated by politically biased leaders of the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.

The Democratic memo underwent days of review by top law enforcement officials after the president blocked its outright release two weeks ago, with the White House counsel warning that the document “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” On Saturday afternoon, after weeks of haggling over redactions, the department returned the document to the committee so it could make it public.

The release was expected to be the final volley, at least for now, in a bitter partisan fight over surveillance that has driven deep fissures through the once-bipartisan Intelligence Committee.

For weeks, instead of focusing its full energy on investigating an attack on the American democratic system, the committee has been pulled into a furious effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to sow doubts about the integrity of the special counsel inquiry and the agencies conducting it.

The newfound animosity toward the F.B.I. among ostensibly law-and-order Republicans was reflected this past week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where speakers like Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, attacked what they called its “rogue leadership.”

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Code Red: dereliction of duty by a ‘criminally incompetent’ commander-in-chief

After a weekend of our always insecure egomaniacal man-child Twitter-troll-in-chief Trump lashing out over Russia probe in an angry and error-laden tweetstorm, a remarkable series of opinions appeared in newspapers on Monday.

Max Boot wrote at the Washington Post, Trump is ignoring the worst attack on America since 9/11:

Imagine if, after 9/11, the president had said that the World Trade Center and Pentagon could have been attacked by “China” or “lots of other people.” Imagine if he had dismissed claims of al-Qaeda’s responsibility as a “hoax” and said that he “really” believed Osama bin Laden’s denials. Imagine if he saw the attack primarily as a political embarrassment to be minimized rather than as a national security threat to be combated. Imagine if he threatened to fire the investigators trying to find out what happened.

Or if you would prefer, imagine if this was the response to the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as cartoonist Steve Benson does.

SteveBensonCartoon

That’s roughly where we stand after the second-worst foreign attack on America in the past two decades. The Russian subversion of the 2016 election did not, to be sure, kill nearly 3,000 people. But its longer-term impact may be even more corrosive by undermining faith in our democracy.

The evidence of Russian meddling became “incontrovertible,” in the word of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 13 Russians and three Russian organizations on Friday for taking part in this operation. “Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment charges.

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